Trainer Kristen Buchanan has next month’s $500,000 Four Pillars firmly within her sights and is looking to a trio from her stable to show they are on track at Randwick on Saturday.
The Wyong trainer won the race last year with Oakfield Arrow and that mare will lay her cards on the table alongside stablemates Epicus and Oakfield Waratah in the Midway Handicap (1400m).
The Four Pillars (1500m) is run on James Squire Golden Eagle Day at Rosehill and is a Benchmark 68 restricted to Midway eligible horses.
“I hope to have a good hand in it, it all comes down to barriers and things, I have really focused on that race,’’ Buchanan said.
Epicus, $4.40 with TAB on Thursday, has been a work in progress for Buchanan but he built a promising record last preparation winning three of his five starts including the latest before a spell at Canterbury.
The gelding, formerly trained by Chris Waller, returned with an eye-catching fifth, running an equal race best 33.50 for his last 600m (Punter’s Intelligence), over 1200m at Warwick Farm last week.
“I was very happy with him first-up and we’re on track for a Four Pillars campaign. Whatever happens on Saturday, his main goal is the Four Pillars,’’ Buchanan said.
“He’s a very nice progressive horse. He’s stronger and more sensible, more willing to settle and not arguing about it so much.
“He’s got a really good turn of foot when he does allow himself to relax behind the speed.”
Koby Jennings rides Epicus and Buchanan is rapt to have drawn the inside barrier, which she says will afford him the chance to get some cover.
“We’ll be close enough, he jumps well and puts himself there, and he’s just got to get that split at the finish so hopefully Koby can get him out at the right time,’’ she said.
Expect Oakfield Waratah to be a lot closer to the pace than he found himself first-up in a Benchmark 78 at Rosehill two weeks ago.
Buchanan said the five-year-old had no choice but to go back and was pleased with the two-time Midway winner’s effort late.
“He was much further back from a tricky gate the other day,’’ she said.
“I don’t think it worked out for us to be that far back. It was a good first up run to help him into the rest of his prep.”
Apprentice Anna Roper takes 3kg off Oakfield Waratah’s 61kg and Buchanan said ideally she’d like to take advantage of that claim in the $500,000 race, in which she expects to see several highly weighted horses line up.
“Anna is getting a test run and all being well we would like to keep her on in the Four Pillars. He would still be up in the weights but it wouldn’t be ridiculous,’’ she said.
As for Oakfield Arrow, who hasn’t won since last year’s Four Pillars, a sign of her hitting form is what Buchanan is looking for on Saturday despite a tricky barrier.
The six-year-old finished midfield behind Felix Majestic in a Midway two weeks ago.
“I’ve got to have a good look at the speed maps,’’ she said.
“I’ll probably be a little conservative with her, I don’t want to bust her, and have her hit the line.”
Meanwhile, Buchanan will wait until Saturday morning before deciding if Shoutaboutit makes her debut in the James Squire Kirkham Plate (1000m) as she tries to plot a Magic Millions path.
The filly has trialled twice in Sydney, including a close second in a 900m heat at Rosehill a couple of weeks ago, and if she does line up at Randwick will face no more than six rivals.
“We have nominated for the fillies maiden on Wednesday so I have an opt out option which the owners and I will discuss,’’ she said.
“She’s speedy and precocious. She’s a Magic Millions filly, an all-womens group, and we want to get some money in the bank to get into the Wyong race.”
– Racing NSW